“Indians are law-abiding people and the Saudi government has corrected the (residency) status of around 400,000 illegal Indian workers in the country,” Shihab Kottukad, consultant to the Non Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) department of the Kerala government and a volunteer at the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia, told IANS here Wednesday on the sidelines of the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual gathering of people of Indian origin.
According to Kottukad, the new policy will affect only those expatriates who are living illegally in that country and those who do not abide by the law. The new Nitaqat or Saudisation policy in that country – which has been much misunderstood in India – makes it mandatory for all Saudi companies to reserve 10 percent of jobs for Saudi nationals.
Following the implementation of the policy from June 2011 onwards, Saudi authorities granted a six-month grace period last year for all expatriates to either rectify their residency status or leave the country.
“There are around 2.4 million (Indian) people working in the country, many of whom have been living for over two decades. They find the efforts made by the Indian overseas affairs ministry and the Saudi government to correct their status very satisfactory,” Kottukad said.
Asked about reports that the Saudi government is mulling a new law that will restrict the stay of expatriate workers in that country to a maximum of eight years, his reaction was that of doubt.
“As regards the proposed law, restricting expatriates’ stay in the country to a maximum of eight years, I am no one to comment on this because it is the government’s decision and they may implement it or may not,” Kottukad said.
“But one thing I can tell is that the government of that country is very helpful to us (Indians). Most probably they will not pass the law.”
Jayantha Kumar, human resource director at Saudi Arabia-based Nasser S. Al Hajri Corporation (NSH), which employs around 50,000 Indian nationals, said the Indian community is the largest expatriate community in that country “and they are working in a very safe and secure environment”.
“Those who have come back to India (following the grace period) were illegal workers,” he added.